Sometimes hotspots in photographs just need a helping hand.
You’ve all been there. You are out shooting some scene in the shadows that proves to be quite dramatic and makes for a stunning final image. The only problem is there is that darned hot-spot of direct sunlight worming its way through the shadow-casting obstructions. It makes a white-hot distraction that draws your eye away from your purposed center of interest. It can ruin an otherwise good composition.
Take this butterfly photo where the insect is poised at water’s-edge on a partially damp rock. The water behind is in shadows and the butterfly is nicely lit by the sun. The dry section of white stone is way too hot, however and creates a disturbing distraction. This is fixable in software but ideally a get-it-right in-camera approach yields a much better result.
Enter the helping hand. It could be a stranger walking by or it could be a shooting buddy. In this case, a simple hand was held above the white-hot rock casting a shadow onto the spot where the sun’s shafted light was falling. Note how much softer the tone and how much more subdued the general lighting is. In this case the shade cast by the helping hand cut the exposure by 1 1/3 stops causing me to drop my shutter speed from 1/320th to 1/125th of a second. I now have a much more workable photo for my software package to edit.
After editing a modest amount, the distraction is gone and I can concentrate on my image’s subject the butterfly.
I know photographers who draft passer’s by to stand and cast shadows it foregrounds, backgrounds and across the subject. You never know who can or will lend a helping hand-until you ask.
Rikk Flohr © 2009